DISCIPLINES STRONGER TOGETHER THAN APART
For decades, the United States has emphasized STEM education as a means of ensuring U.S. competitiveness and future economic prosperity.
While scientific and technological literacy represent critical skills for 21st century learners, the STEAM movement equally values mastery of design, storytelling, and relatability. And proponents are working diligently to ensure art reclaims its position in the national dialogue about STEM education and research.
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) stands as a leader in furthering that effort, with the school’s mantra proclaiming: “The disciplines are stronger together than they are apart.”
“In the past, the arts and sciences have been very closely linked and in more recent times there has been a bifurcation, particularly in the education system, which we hope STEAM will address,” says Babette Allina, Director of Government Relations at RISD. “What we often say is that if you couple art and technology you’re getting the human factor.”
That human factor, Allina says, makes a product or service desirable. She summons up the classic example of the iPod. The technology for music players existed long before, but only through artistry of design, elegant human interface, and a masterful user experience did Apple popularize the product.
To further the case for STEAM, Allina points to several national studies on the positive impacts of art education on student learning.
A 2012 National Endowment for the Arts study identified a correlation between arts activity among at-risk youth and positive outcomes in a variety of areas, such as high grades and test scores, high school graduation, college enrollment and achievement, and overall civic engagement.
The following year, a report by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities found that an art-rich classroom environment can help re-engage and motivate students at risk of dropping out.
Additionally, a 2013 study by Michigan State University links childhood participation in the arts to the number of patents granted and businesses launched as adults.